Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Awesome And Excessive, Rogue One Mission Briefing Trading Cards Split My Standards!

The Good: Good overview of the time period in the Star Wars universe, Some cool autograph signers, Cool Rogue One teases
The Bad: Ridiculous numbers of parallel cards, Insane rarities on a wide variety of cards, A weird card choices, Sticker autograph card style.
The Basics: Leading up to the cinematic release of Rogue One, Topps produced the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards which are interesting-enough, but absolutely impossible to collect.

Every now and then, I encounter a product that forces me to re-evaluate how I rate various products. Sometimes, there is a film where I find myself literally caught between a 2/10 and an 8/10, usually when something that is nauseatingly horrific, but I have to acknowledge that it is done well. With trading cards, I find myself occasionally trapped because "collectibility" is one of the standards by which I rate a trading card set. In recent times, many trading card sets have become prohibitive to even attempt to collect the set. Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards from Topps are one such set. Given that there are at least 184 unique - 1/1 cards - not counting the printing plates (!) the Rogue One Mission Briefing are impossible to collect. Literally, the moment any two collectors actually committed to trying to collect this set, it became absolutely impossible to make a true, complete master set of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards.

That said, when I started opening packs, boxes and cases of Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards, I found there was actually quite a bit to like about the card set. Outside the weird volume of hard-to-assemble parallel sets, the content in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set is actually pretty cool. The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards blend key Star Wars prequel events with animated series moments with the highlights - usually concerned with the first and second Death Stars - of the original Star Wars Trilogy . . . with teases of Rogue One.

Basics/Set Composition

Topps has begun to be an active part of building hype for the new Star Wars movies by creating transitional trading card sets that connect the new works to the classic Star Wars films. Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are one such set and it does its best to capitalize on the connections between classic Star Wars works and Rogue One.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are dominated by a retro cardboard cardstock for the bulk of the cards. Chase cards like the sticker cards, autograph cards, foil cards and printing plates have a different sheen and feel to their fronts, but most of the trading cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards have a retro cardboard look and feel, which goes back to the original Topps Star Wars trading card releases from the late 1970s. While all of the common cards (and most of the chase) are formatted in one orientation (landscape), the text on the back of the cards is (unfortunately) oriented the same way as the text on the front. As a result, when one flips a page in the binder, they must rotate the binder around in order to read the backs. This is not very friendly to those who want to sit and read the cards.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards could be compiled to make a single, true master set of 1583 trading cards. Most of the cards in the true master set would be chase parallel cards and the set is prohibitive to collect because of some of the odds of ever finding the rarest cards, which were truly unique 1/1 individually numbered parallel cards. Boxes of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards contain only twenty-four packs of eight cards each. Topps, Inc. only guaranteed two “hits” per box. In my experience, that meant that each box had a patch card and then an autograph, sketch or printing plate card; there were three boxes in my case that had parallel cards that were part of the individually-numbered sets.

Common Cards

The Rogue One Mission Briefing common set is an interesting concept that loses a little bit of focus near its end. The 110 card set focuses in a general way on the elements that went into the creation and destruction of the Death Star. The first 68 of 110 cards transition from the Star Wars prequel films to events in A New Hope that focus on the Death Star. Cards 69 through 78 do a fast gloss-over of The Empire Strikes Back and the destruction of the second Death Star in Return Of The Jedi before going into character cards. The common set ends with ten cards focusing on events and characters from Rogue One.

The common card set is generally well-written, though some of the cards are weird stretches that seem designed entirely to sell the rest of the set. Chief among these are cards in the character portion of the common set like card 90 - John D. Branon (Red Four). Topps managed to track down the random actor who appeared for a few frames in A New Hope who played the Red Four X-Wing pilot. The actor is Jack Klaff, who actually was credited in A New Hope, which was his first film, who had perhaps thirty seconds of screentime (including where he was in the background). Card 90 fleshes out the briefly-seen character with a full backstory, arguably to build enthusiasm for an autograph card where one's first instinct upon seeing it would be to wonder "Who is this?!" The nine-card mural, with a final card showing what the mural is supposed to look like assembled, help infuse the Rogue One Mission Briefing common card set with actual material from Rogue One.

As for the images, the Rogue One Mission Briefing, most of the shots are from the films and the animated television shows, no promotional shots. Interestingly, astute fans of the Star Wars films will recognize the ten shots from the final cards in the common set all from the trailer from Rogue One. These are hardly ambitious images from Rogue One, but they are the shots that Topps had in advance of the film's release.

Chase Cards

The Rogue One Mission Briefing cards are loaded with bonus cards. The bonus cards range from various levels of parallel cards to basic chase cards like Death Star, Heroes, Villains, and Rogue One character cards, as well as higher level chase cards like patch, autograph, and printing plate cards. There are 1473 chase cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing set, with only ten that are not found in the packs and boxes of the cards.

Most packs of Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards contain two parallel cards, though there are six different parallel sets. The six parallel sets replicate the common card set with different border colors. The common set has a retro look to it, with a red border around the big image of the card's subject. The parallel cards replace the red border with "Death Star Black," green, or blue borders. For the three rarer sets, the red border is replaced with a sickly blue-gray (the backs are individually numbered out of 100), gold - which actually looks orange and is individually numbered out of 50 - and orange, which are unique 1/1 parallel cards. There is nothing particularly special about these parallel cards, save their collectibility, though the black parallel cards actually look pretty awesome. It's funny that they are the most common of the parallel cards.

There are a number of fairly common bonus cards - whose sets take about three boxes to complete - in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards. Found one in every eight packs are Rogue One foil cards, Heroes Of The Rebel Alliance, and Villains Of The Galactic Empire cards. A little more common are the Rogue One comic strip cards and Death Star cards; found two per box are Darth Vader Continuity cards and the sticker cards. Only the Death Star cards are in landscape format, like the common cards; the rest are all in portrait orientation. Rather wisely, the Heroes and Villains chase sets do not bother with real text on the back; fans already know who these characters are. The sticker cards feature mediocre artwork of characters in sepia tones on a blue background and decent artwork of the various ships from Rogue One. The Death Star cards are neat in that they include some weird, obscure shots of various interiors of the Death Star, while the character foils do a decent job of blending the promotional images of Rogue One characters with generic foil backgrounds. The only real issues I found with the basic chase cards are that some of the Darth Vader continuity cards and Darth Vader-themed character cards are virtually identical, with one having to look at the back of the card to determine which card they are looking at!

One per box of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards is one of nine Rogue One Montage cards. The Montage cards are a truly nice replicated artwork card of the new characters from Rogue One. These include very cool artwork cards of Jyn Erso, Director Krennic and some of the distinctive Rebels from Rogue One.

Also one per box are manufactured patch cards, which make up a thirteen card set. The patches are cute and some feature really neat ideas, like the MP-5 of Krennic. Instead of the standard Imperial symbol (which is the subject of Krennic's MP-8 patch card), the patch in the MP-5 card features the Death Star with Darth Vader superimposed on it. It might look vaguely like a Dalek, but it is pretty cool. There are three different individually-numbered parallel patch cards and, mercifully, the most rare of these is x/10 (featuring a red stripe on the front). The patch cards are pretty neat, though the parallels of the patch cards do appear to be exceptionally rare (I did not pull a single one).

As is frequent in all modern movie-themed trading card sets, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards include autograph cards. There are 74 autograph cards spread between the classic Star Wars Trilogy, the Star Wars Requel films, and the animated The Clone Wars television show and Star Wars Rebels. The autographs are the incredibly unpopular format of autograph “card” where the signer signed a pearlescent white sticker and Topps slapped that sticker on a trading card. The Mission Briefing set was sold on its inclusion of the Original Trilogy’s Big Three – Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, in addition to significant supporting actors like Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Billy Dee Williams. There are a number of autographs that are poised to explode in value like Jason Isaacs (now that he has been cast in the new Star Trek television show), but the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards also have a bunch of filler autographs, like David Ankrum (Wedge Antilles's redubed vocal actor), Jack Klaff, Rusty Goffe (who played a Jawa), and Megan Udall - whose only IMDB credit is The Phantom Menace, whose role she arguably got as one of Anakin Skywalker's childhood friends was because she was being dragged around the Tunisia locations because her mother was the Unit nurse there!

There are four levels of autograph parallel cards that mimic the common parallel cards, though all are individually numbered. The borders on the autograph cards are bright green. The parallel cards feature the autographed stickers slapped on cards where the bright green borders are replaced with Death Star Black (and individually numbered out of 50 on the back), Blue (25), "Gold" (I swear, they look orange!, x/10) and orange (I can only imagine how these might be differentiated from the "gold" outside the number on the back - 1/1) borders. The death star black autograph cards all look amazing.

For insane collectors who want high-level chase cards, there are two dual autograph cards (each numbered our of 3), two triple autograph cards (also numbered out of 3) and one quad-autograph booklet, of which there are only two copies. Having only seen photos of the multiple autographs, they are far more rare than they are extraordinary. The quad autograph booklet is sold on its inclusion of Mark Hamill's signature alongside three other X-Wing pilots. Topps has found the formula of including killer signatures with unremarkable signers unsuccessful with some of their other products, like the Firefly: The Verse trading cards (reviewed here!) and Alien Anthology cards and one has to figure Star Wars trading card collectors have enough to chase without something quite this insane. I would argue that the best of these high-level multiple autographs is the Carrie Fisher and Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma from Return Of The Jedi) dual autograph card. It is the most sensible of the multi-autographs considering Topps could not release a Carrie Fisher/Ingvild Deila (Leia's body model in Rogue One, which was kept as a pretty well-guarded secret before the release of the film) for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards include sketch cards from 33 different artists. In the case I cracked, I pulled only a single sketch card and Roy Cover's sketch was one of the nicest I've seen. Ingrid Hardy did some beautiful sketches for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards, as did Chris Meeks. I was a little surprised by how little variation there were in some of Rob Teranishi's sketch cards, but most of the sketches for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards were a decent chase card!

For the four people who want to chase everything but the 1/1 parallel common and autograph cards, there are 263 printing plate cards (four different colors - black, cyan, yellow and magenta) that were used to produce the cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card sets. The printing plates were used to make the common cards, sticker cards, character foil, comic strip, Darth Vader continuity, Heroes and Villains, Rogue One Montage cards and Death Star cards. The 74 autograph cards also have printing plates included in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set and to the credit of Topps, they slapped an autographed sticker on each one, so one gets an autographed printing plate card, which is pretty cool.

Here is where the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards left me truly divided; were it not for the insane parallel numbers and the multi-autographs, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards actually impressed me with the bonus cards. I liked the more common chase cards, especially for a set working to transition between the existing works and Rogue One with its limited available footage at the time the set was produced.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Outside the boxes and packs, there was a set of ten promotional cards, which were originally made available at the New York City Comic Con. The set was, mercifully, made available to fans through Topps's website and is now available surprisingly commonly in the secondary market.


So. The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards left me very divided in my opinion and I decided to make a split decision on the rating. When I consider the content of the set, I found myself liking the set a lot more than I expected - even with the weird biographies of pilots who were seen only for a few fractions of a second on-screen or some of the obscure signers. When I considered the collectibility of the set, I very much did not like the Rogue One Mission Briefing set. I found myself unable to reconcile myself to this set. So, I decided to give two ratings for the set, one for people who might like to collect, generally, one of each of the cards versus how the set would look to try to collect a master set (i.e. all of the parallels). For those who want a fun exploration of the elements that made Rogue One a viable standalone film, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are fun and cool. For those attempting to complete a trading card set, the Rogue One Mission Briefing are a dog to collect!

This set culls images exclusively from the Star Wars Saga, reviewed here, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and some early images and artwork from Rogue One (reviewed here)!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store (new inventory being added daily!). Please visit and purchase from the current inventory of them at: Rogue One Mission Briefing Trading Card Inventory!

For other trading card collections based upon the films, please check out my reviews of:
2016 James Bond Classics
The Mortal Instruments Trading Cards
2014 Star Trek Movie cards

7/10 (Substance)
.5/10 (Factoring collectibility)

For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L .Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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